The web is becoming an undeniably powerful force in American politics today. The standard talking point for this is now two months old--George Allen's "macaca moment" (a single posting of which on YouTube shows nearly 23,000 views). Simon is quoted in this MSNBC article, "Ninety percent of people buying cars do research online first...In the Internet age, we can expect the same for politics."
People are doing their political homework on the web now, and if you want to be found, we strongly recommend our new study.
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Major ripples in the news today regarding North Korea: both President Bush and Secretary Rice have assured us the that the U.S. will not be going to war anytime soon. But two articles that did catch my eye were arguments made by Jimmy Carter in a New York Times op-ed and John McCain in a speech near Detroit.
"I would remind Senator Clinton and other Democrats critical of Bush administration policies that the framework agreement her husband's administration negotiated was a failure...Every single time the Clinton administration warned the Koreans not to do something -- not to kick out the IAEA inspectors, not to remove the fuel rods from their reactor -- they did it.
Carter, in his mild mannered, straightforward way, gives his take on the Clinton years:
The United States assured the North Koreans that there would be no military threat to them, that it would supply fuel oil to replace the lost nuclear power and that it would help build two modern atomic power plants, with their fuel rods and operation to be monitored by international inspectors. The summit talks resulted in South Korean President Kim Dae-jung earning the 2000 Nobel Peace Prize for his successful efforts to ease tensions on the peninsula.
He goes one step further, recognizing the difference in how the Bush administration took up the situation. In 2002, "the United States branded North Korea as part of an axis of evil, threatened military action, ended the shipments of fuel oil and the construction of nuclear power plants and refused to consider further bilateral talks."
Back to McCain:
Under the Clinton presidency, McCain said, "We had a carrots-and-no-sticks policy that only encouraged bad behavior."
Carter explodes this myth:
With the risk of war on the Korean Peninsula, there was a consensus that the forces of South Korea and the United States could overwhelmingly defeat North Korea. But it was also known that North Korea could quickly launch more than 20,000 shells and missiles into nearby Seoul...The current military situation is similar but worse than it was a decade ago: we can still destroy North Korea’s army, but if we do it is likely to result in many more than a million South Korean and American casualties.
Carter even offers a few suggestions for a way out of the hole Bush has dug over the last six years. In this point/counterpoint, Carter offers a level-headed approach of the last decade and where to go in the next; McCain only seems to be able to point fingers.
In his rambling, disquieting news conference this morning, President Bush said again and again that previous Administrations’ strategy towards North Korea “didn’t work.” It is a concept he should spend a great deal of time thinking about.
For what has he done that has worked? On his watch despite many warnings terrorists struck our homeland, Bin Laden is still active and Al Qaeda is growing in influence, the Taliban are resurgent in Afghanistan, our attempt to democratize the Middle East is failing spectacularly, our purposeful violation of the Geneva conventions has weakened our moral authority around the world, Iran is on its way to becoming a nuclear state, democracy is threatened in Russia, our relations with Latin America have worsened, our military has been degraded, we have become much more indebted to foreign nations, global trade talks have fallen apart, there is no action towards a global solution to climate change and as we saw with Katrina we are still not ready here at home.
Over six long years we’ve spent trillions on our defense, taken tens of thousand of casualties, lost a great deal of prestige around the world and what have we gotten for it?
A world much less safe.
Mr. President, you are right, “it didn’t work.” Stay the course isn’t an option. But what do we do now?
I think our Democratic leaders should ask for a bi-partisan, bi-cameral sit down with the President to discuss right now how we can take control of world events once again. The Administration’s approach has failed us, let down the American people and the world and is making the whole world less safe. It is critical that they admit that it isn’t working and ask for input to help to find a better path. The dogged determination to defend what isn’t working is what is causing this Administration to be in so much trouble with the American people.
Do they have the courage to change? Or we will stay with the moral equivocation of staying a course that is so clearly failing?
When the MIT Media Lab's One Laptop Per Child initiative was first announced, many groups (including NDN) understood its potential impact on educating the world's youth. Today's NY Times features an article on how the idea is becoming reality in Libya:
The government of Libya reached an agreement on Tuesday with One Laptop Per Child, a nonprofit United States group developing an inexpensive, educational laptop computer, with the goal of supplying machines to all 1.2 million Libyan schoolchildren by June 2008.
Nicholas Negroponte, brother of U.S. intelligence director John Negroponte, is Chairman of One Laptop Per Child and had this to say of the deal:
It is possible that Libya will become the first nation in the world where all school-age children are connected to the Internet through educational computers. “The U.S. and Singapore are not even close.
President Bush will tomorrow make a speech hailing his achievement in cutting the budget deficit in half. It will be a stunning act of economic hubris. Here is why. First, you introduce policies which vastly increase the deficit through unfunded tax cuts and large spending increases. Second, you predict a dubiously high budget deficit figure a few years out, just at the point in the cycle where you'd expect the deficit to decline naturally. (Tax recipts increase relative to fixed outgoings, all things being equal, the longer into an economic cycle you are. Hence most economists like the to budget balance on average over the course of an expansion, but think its ok to run deficits at certain points.) Then, from this artificially high base you claim success by having halved an imaginery figure - reaching a level that is still billions below where it ought to be for this point in the economic cycle. And Voila, as the Republicans probably would not say.
President Bush's policy has created a structural deficit of hundreds of billions of dollar. This will lower savings and investment, contribute to the trade deficit, and lower long term growth. And, as Brad DeLong points out in this post i've linked to before, the tax cuts - by virtue of being unfunded - aren't really tax cuts at all. They are just tax increases deferred to the future generations who will have to fix the mess.
As Milton Friedman puts it, to spend is to tax. Bush's spending increases--defense, Iraq, the Republican porkfest, the Medicare drug benefit--are still there, just as things you have charged to your VISA don't go away if you make only the minimum monthly payment. What George W. Bush has done has been to shift taxes from the present to the future--and also made future taxes uncertain, random, and thus extra-costly from a standard public finance view.
Remember, at the same point during the Clinton years - after four years of strong economic growth, the budget deficit was just about gone. So, as this graph from Reuters's shows all too obviously, there is a clear $200bn gap between where the public finances are, and where they should be under a responsible government. All the more shameful, then, that Republican candidates accross the country are robotically trotting out tax-and-spend liberal attacks against any opponent who even dares to suggest that, one day, someone is going to have to fix this mess. So tomorrow i think most economist's will be listening to this President's claims, but thinking of words attributed to another: "'Tis better to be silent and be thought a fool, than to speak and remove all doubt."
The Post recounts the sorry history of the fence separating Tijuana and San Diego. That barrier, which is only 14-miles long, was originally estimated to cost $14 million. Instead, the first nine miles have required $39 million, and the DHS has appropriated another $35 million for the rest. Proportionally, that would mean that this longer, larger fence -- which will go through much less populous areas, requiring much more construction, landscaping, and even road building -- will end up costing $10.57 billion, not the $2 billion appropriated. And that doesn't even get into maintenance costs, flood protection, the chance that the newly flatted ground and constructed roads will aid migrants, the opposition of the city of El Paso and the Texas Border Sheriff's association, the environmental lawsuits, or anything else. What a boondoggle.
Having dug out my copy of the paper, I see there a fabulous map, that sadly isn't on their website. Washington residents should dig their copy out of the trash, and have a look.
The latest Republican scandal just won't go away. Yesterday, the Center for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) accused the FBI of lying to cover-up its failure to investigate Mark Foley in July 2006, when CREW first sent then Congressman Foley's inappropriate emails to the FBI. The FBI says that the emails were heavily redacted and that they were unable to contact CREW. CREW calls both claims untrue saying:
On Monday, October 2, CREW sent a letter to the DOJ I.G.’s office, attaching exact copies of the emails CREW had sent to the FBI on July 21, 2006. Both the former page’s name and the person to whom the page forwarded Rep. Foley’s emails were clearly visible. Moreover, after CREW sent the emails to the FBI, CREW’s only subsequent contact with the Bureau was one telephone call from the special agent to whom CREW had sent the material confirming that the emails were from Rep. Foley. CREW had no further contact with the FBI.
Why is the FBI unable to get its story straight about its apparent decision to not investigate Mark Foley when they first found out about the emails?
Also, Republican Rep. Jim Kolbe, a former member of the Congressional Page oversight board, confirmed to the Wall Street Journal that he had been told about inappropriate emails from Mark Foley to a Congressional Page "years before" the acknowledged 2005 incident. At the time, Kolbe says he spoke to Foley's Chief of Staff Kirk Fordham and took no further action. This latest revelation is yet another layer in the Republican's explanation for why they were so lax in their attention to the welfare of the children working in the Congressional Page program. Should make Mr. Fordham's upcoming testimony to the House Ethics Committee even more interesting.
In this Republican Congressional leadership the buck never seems to stop anywhere, but it sure gets passed around a lot. That is unless the background to Speaker Hastert's press conference this morning was some kind of morbid hint about his future as Speaker.
This lunchtime i undertook my latest cross-party trek accross, to the CATO institute. Most rewarding it was too. Anatol Leiven and John Hulsman discussed their new book, Ethical Realism.
This might sound like a contradiction in terms, like dry rain or compassionate conservative. But the two make a convincing, intriguing partnership. Lieven is a democrat, a multilateralist and a brit. Hulsman is a republican, a realist and an American. And yet they teamed up for a bi-partisan foreign policy tag-team to tell the world they both think George Bush and his Neo Conservative henchman are, broadly speaking, nuts. The case the two author's make is exceptionally persuasive, while their anaylsis of Iraq, in particular, is anything but heartening. Both think the situation is unsaveable. Lieven said the policy persued by the administration is "as close to geopolitical madness" as it was possible to get, and that a partition or confederated solution was now "frankly unavoidable." There didn't seem to be much disagreement about this from anyone in the room. This suggests to me, at least, that it is now an open secret that the foreign policy establishment is just toughing through one more month of hypocritcal 'stay the course" until November 7th. After that everyone - John Warner and his electorally convenient timetable included - expects a significant change of course to correct a failed mission.
The picture painted of the neo-conservative strategy towards Iran was equally withering, as was their view of liberal hawks like ex New Republic supremo Peter Beinart.Most strikingly, Hulsman told the following story, reprinted in a previous OpenDemocracy article, during his remarks:
A number of years ago a leading and very intelligent neocon said something to me (off the record) that I've thought about a great deal since. When I asked what would happen to his movement if Iraq did not go according to plan, he said chillingly: "Well, then I will say its all the president's fault, it was the execution and not the premises of the neocon agenda that let us down, that all is needed is a more competent president and team, and we will regroup around John McCain, who many of us favored in the first place."
Lets hope McCain, and the rest of them, aren't to be taken in.
A scathing review of the Woodward book in this weekend's Post caught my eye. Not least for this paragraph, and especially the zinging final line:
In crisis after crisis, the government simply failed to operate the way it was designed to. Memos failed to circulate or arrived after they became irrelevant. Briefings conveyed only the news that listeners wanted to hear. Controversial information was rarely presented to the president, who rarely asked for it. New proposals were quashed, and policy was stymied by terrible infighting, or worse, indifference. On point after point, the government's performance was over budget, unapologetic and late. In other words, the Bush administration has become the new Amtrak.
And if it needed ramming home quite how obviously the wheels have come off this particular train, this morning's Post poll is quite extraordinary. I was especially struck by the +6 lead on terrorism, and the strong, strong presumption of a Foley cover-up. It seems that this scandal has done what the Democrats themselves haven't quite been able to pull off - portraying the Republicans as the corrupt, out-of-touch embodiment of nasty politics-as-usual. But, as Simon says below, beyond the ferocious spinning, it is clear that people knew Foley was a problem, did nothing about, and have been scrabbling to invent a half plausible explanation as to why. So this judgement - even Amtrak would do a better job than these guys - doesn't seem unfair.